A stroke occurs when a blockage prevents oxygenated blood from reaching your brain. Obviously, strokes are extremely serious, and if you’re at risk, medication can help prevent one from happening or stop a second one.
Obviously, natural prevention measures like eating lots of produce and getting plenty of exercise are the best ways to stop a stroke in its tracks. Medication might be effective, but there will always be risky side effects to consider.
When does stroke medication become necessary?
Although every situation is different, most stroke medications are prescribed after someone has already had a stroke. The medication is typically used to prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. While medication has its benefits, you’ll also want to keep the risks in mind — including scary side effects.
Next: Not all stroke meds are created equal.
These are the most common stroke medications
The most frequently prescribed stroke medications are:
- Antiplatelets, which prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together.
- Anticoagulants, which prevent blood clots from forming and keep existing blood clots from getting bigger.
- Statins, which control cholesterol levels while reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Blood pressure medications, which lower stroke risk by regulating the blood pressure.
- SSRIs — occasionally, SSRIs, which are antidepressants, are used to help with stroke recovery. Even if the person isn’t depressed, studies have shown that the SSRIs can be helpful.
Before you begin treatment, discuss potential side effects with your doctor so you know what to look for. These are the most common.
Next: This symptom looks alarming.
Easy bruising and bleeding
Bleeding and easier bruising is a common side effect of antiplatelets and anticoagulants. If you notice either of these symptoms, you should alert your doctor right away as it could be sign of a more serious problem.
Next: Don’t ignore any aches or pains.
Muscle pain and weakness
Typically, muscle damage is side effect of taking statins — and sadly, it’s the most common one. While the pain is often just a temporary mild discomfort, in rare cases, it can lead to life-threatening muscle damage called rhabdomyolysis.
Next: This side effect is rare, but it’s dangerous.
According to the Mayo Clinic, those statins you’re taking could be damaging your liver. Most signs of early liver damage go unnoticed, which is why your doctor may order a liver enzyme test shortly after you start to take a statin. But if you’re unusually fatigued, feel a pain in your upper abdomen, lose your appetite or notice dark-colored urine, call your doctor right away.
Next: No one wants to feel dizzy, but these side effects usually aren’t too severe.
Nausea and dizziness
If your doctor prescribed blood pressure medication to help prevent a stroke, know that nausea and dizziness are very common. The symptoms usually aren’t severe and may stop in time, but you should mention them to your doctor anyway. Loss of appetite, constipation, and insomnia are also common but may fade as your body adjusts.
Next: This side effect is pretty ironic.
While this might seem counterproductive, the same blood pressure medications used to treat your stroke recovery can increase your risk of stroke. The harder blood pressure is to control, the higher your stroke risk is. A study with almost 27,000 participants found that the risk of stroke went up 33% with each blood pressure medicine required to treat blood pressure to goal. You can lower your risk of both stroke and hypertension by eating a healthy diet, exercising, and keeping stress levels as low as possible.
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